Tag:Conference Semifinal
Posted on: May 6, 2011 11:36 pm
Edited on: May 7, 2011 3:19 am

Lidstrom extends career at least one more game

Niclkas Lidstrom did plenty to extend the series -- and maybe his career --- one more game. 

The Detroit Red Wings captain scored twice as the his team held on for a 4-3 victory in Game 4 of the second-round series on Friday night. The victory prevented a San Jose Sharks sweep as the series moves back to Silicon Valley for Game 5 on Sunday. 

It also gave Detroit coach Mike Babcock  a chance to chide some reporters after talk of  the Lidstrom retirement has been the talk of the Motor City this week. 

“I thought it’s really good (with) you guys talking about retirement yesterday,” Babcock deadpanned. “I think he answered that bell pretty good.”

Lidstrom, 41, will become an unrestricted free agent July 1 and he hasn’t indicated what he’ll do this offseason. His oldest son, 16-year-old Kevin, has been accepted to hockey school in Sweden, fueling speculation Lidstrom may head back to his native country. 

But performances like Friday showed once again the defenseman still has plenty left. He scored Detroit’s second and third goals of the game as the Red Wings built a 3-0 lead, one that the Sharks eventually overcame before Darren Helm scored the game-winner with 1:27 left in regulation. 

Lidstrom has had four goals and an assist in the playoffs --- all coming in the four games against the Sharks. That’s more goals than any other Wings player in the entire playoffs, including Pavel Datsyuk (three goals), Johan Franzen (two) and Jiri Hudler (one). 

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 6, 2011 12:49 pm
Edited on: May 6, 2011 3:41 pm

Can Sharks sweep the Red Wings this time?

The Detroit Red Wings have been swept twice during this current 20-season run of playoff appearances. 

The San Jose Sharks were all set to make it third last season by winning the first three games in the second round. They get a redo tonight as they look to play the minimum in this series at Joe Louis Arena tonight. 

The result last May wasn’t pretty: the Red Wings won, 7-1. 

“We have to be prepared,” Sharks forward Dany Heatley said. “Last year in Game 4, they came out and really took it to us. The result wasn’t very good for us. We have to understand whatever push they gave (Wednesday), they are going to come out even harder.”

The Sharks have never swept a team out of the playoffs, although they have only led 3-0 twice in franchise history. Other than last season against the Wings, the Sharks failed to close the deal in second round again the Colorado Avalanche as Joe Sakic scored in OT in 2004. 

Each of the first three games of this series has been decided by one goal and the Wings have totaled just five goals, two coming off the stick of captain Nicklas Lidstrom. (On a side note, the recently launched The Detroit Sports Site details Lidstrom’s top-10 playoff goals.) Players such as Johan Franzen, Todd Bertuzzi  and Valtteri Filppula have yet to net a point in this series. 

So, can the Sharks join the Tampa Bay Lightning and advance to the conference final with minimal effort?

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 6, 2011 1:22 am
Edited on: May 6, 2011 10:58 am

Kesler draws admiration, even from opposition

Ryan Kesler is the kind of player you like when he’s on your team, but not when you’re opposing him.

But even Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz expressed some admiration for the Vancouver Canucks’ gritty forward.

“He’s getting some room,” Trotz said after the Preds lost Game 4, 4-2, on Thursday. “He’s winning some battles and he’s finding the net for them. I think in the first series, he didn’t have anything going and now he’s their best player. Bar none.”

The Canucks exited Nashville with a 3-1 lead of the best-of-7 second-round series. Kesler netted both the game-winning goals at Bridgestone Arena --- an overtime deflection in Game 3 and a power play marker in the third period on Thursday. 

“It was a great breakout on the power play, a really amazing goal by a player whose will to win right now is very strong and he’s competing really hard,” Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said.

Kesler has three goals and eight assists in the playoffs, seven of those points (three goals, four assist) coming this round against the Preds.

He also drew two penalties in Game 4: a cross check by Kevin Klein and a hold by Ryan Suter. Suter’s penalty set up Kesler’s game-winner. 

That call also gave Vigneault a chance to snipe back at Nashville’s players and coaches, who have questioned some of the penalties drawn by the Canucks this series. 

“I hope they are not going to complain about embellishment tonight,” Vigneault said. “I mean, with the number of things that happened out there on the ice, Suter had the audacity to complain after he takes that penalty and just hauled Ryan Kesler down. It’s utterly amazing how our guys battled.”

Kesler, a finalist for the Selke Trophy that goes to the league’s best defensive forward, is the Canucks' leading scorer in the playoffs. His play is the primary reason the Canucks are a game from advancing to the conference final. 

It certainly hasn’t been because of the Sedin twins. 

Henrik Sedin scored an empty-net goal with 21 seconds left on Thursday, the first goal either twin has in against the Preds this series.(Henrik also had two assists in Game 4.) Daniel Sedin, a finalist for the Hart Trophy, has two points in the series, both assists. 

-- A.J .Perez

Posted on: May 5, 2011 12:55 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 1:16 pm

Sullivan out, Wilson in for Predators

Nashville Predators winger Steve Sullivan will miss tonight’s Game 4 and he appears doubtful for the rest of the second-round series against the Vancouver Canucks, Preds coach Barry Trotz told reporters Thursday. 

Sullivan suffered a knee injury late in Game 3, an injury that prevented him from taking the ice in overtime. Colin Wilson, who played in all 82 regular season games for the Preds but has been a healthy scratch each contest this postseason, will replace Sullivan. 

“I’ve been kind of sitting around the whole time just hoping to get in,” Wilson told The Tennessean on Wednesday. “All I’ve been thinking about is playing. My mind-set hasn’t changed, I’m a little bit more excited because it’s more possible for me to play.”

Wilson, a first-round draft pick in 2008, had 16 goals and 18 assists this season. 

--A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 5, 2011 12:24 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 1:22 pm

Caps GM gives Boudreau vote of confidence

And just like that, Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau’s seat cooled considerably.  

"I expect him to be back,” GM George McPhee told Tarik El Bashir of The Washington Post on Thursday, a day after the Caps were swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning. “He's a good coach.

“Someone said he's not a good playoff coach There's no difference between a playoff coach and regular season coach. Either you're a good coach or you're not. He's a good coach.”

Boudreau's record in the regular season and the playoffs can't be much more dissimilar.

The Caps have won four consecutive division titles, the Presidents’ Trophy a season ago and  were the top seed in the Eastern Conference the past two seasons. It’s the playoffs where the talented team that boasts Alex Ovechkin and other Stars have struggled under Boudreau, winning only two of six playoff series. Boudreau's playoff record is 17-20.

Earlier Thursday, Caps majority owner Ted Leonsis preached his usually fare -- humility with a heavy helping of patience -- on his blog

The best course of action for us though is to let a few days pass; be very analytic about what needs to be improved; articulate that plan; and then execute upon it.

Clearly we know we have to improve to build a franchise that is as good as our fan base.

I appreciate your emails. I appreciate all of the advice we are being given by media and bloggers. I understand that we are what our record says we are.

-- A.J. Perez
Posted on: May 5, 2011 1:56 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 3:10 am

Caps' Backstrom at a loss to explain struggles

Nicklas Backstrom couldn’t be counted on for much this postseason, although the Washington Capitals center always provides an honest assessment. 

“I think it feels like I’ve been working hard every game, but around the net it just wasn’t there,” he told reporters after the Tampa Bay Lightning complete a sweep of the Caps Wednesday night.. “I don’t know what happened, but it was so (expletive) frustrating.”

The weight of the first year of a 10-year $67-million contract? Trying to be too precise? An undisclosed injury? 

Whatever the cause, Backstrom finished with two points (both assists) in the playoffs. His regular season was hardly spectacular as he followed up a 101-point 2009-10 with only 65 points this season. The drop was likely due to a shift in team’s strategy that stressed defensive responsibility, a bad power play and a  hand injury that hobbled him the closing month of the regular season. 

“Nicky Backstrom didn’t score, but no one’s going to stand up here and tell me he didn’t try,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Backstrom, the team’s second-leading scorer behind Alex Ovechkin in the playoffs the last two years, never appeared comfortable out there. Shots he would have buried a season ago would roll off his stick. Passes he used to hit missed their mark. 

“Obviously, you don’t want to see that happen,” Backstrom said (via  Ryan O’Halloran of CSNwashington.com). “I take full responsibility for not being that good. I wasn’t as good as I should be.”

Alexander Semin can share some of the blame as well. He all but disappeared after he scored in overtime in Game 1 of the first-round series against the New York Rangers, finishing with six points. 

-- A.J. Perez

Posted on: May 5, 2011 12:48 am
Edited on: May 5, 2011 11:23 am

Another year, another 3-0 lead for Bruins

The Boston Bruins had the Philadelphia Flyers here before, 12 months ago actually. 

A 5-1 victory by the Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday put the Flyers in an 0-3 deficit. --- the same one they climbed out of to become the  third team in league history to drop the first three games in a series and still advance. 

This, however, isn’t the same Flyers team. And the Bruins aren’t about to fall victim to a rare comeback two seasons in a row. 

"Going into the series I was hoping for it," Bruins goalie Tim Thomas told NESN. "It is what it is. It's a different year. It's totally different."

Thomas didn't even start a game agianst the Flyers last seaosn as Tuukka Rask remained in net as the series slowly slipped away. 

The two of the first three games of last year’s second-round series were all one-goal contests and another would have been a two-goal game had it not been for an empty-net goal. Thanks largely to injuries to the Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger and the team's goaltending struggles, that hasn't been the case this postseason. Other than Game 2 that went to OT, the Bruins have coasted. Overall, the Bruins have outscored the Flyers, 15-6. 

"We're trying to keep that out of our mind," Boston center Brad Marchand told NESN. "It's a brand new year. We have a new team here. Half the team is new guys. It's a new season, so we're not worried about that at all. We're writing our own new chapter."

-- A.J. Perez

Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: May 4, 2011 11:50 pm
Edited on: May 5, 2011 3:16 am

Capitals' season lost by inaction in December

The Washington Capitals latest postseason failure can be traced back to December.

Caps GM George McPhee had the perfect opportunity to bounce coach Bruce Boudreau during the team's eight-game skid -- not because he’s a horrible coach, not a nice guy or a bad spokesman for a rug cleaning company. McPhee needed to show there were consequences, the NHL equivalent of sitting your kid in the corner for a timeout.

The end result of McPhee’s inaction came to pass on Wednesday: Washington was swept by the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 5-3 victory in Game 4 of the second-round series. The Caps became the first No. 1 seed in the 17-year history of the current playoff format to fall victim to a sweep in the first two rounds.

Well, I guess the Caps did accomplish something this season.

“I knew it was a tough year,” Boudreau said after his team’s implosion was complete. “I just thought if we persevered, that something good would happen.”

Boudreau fell to 17-20 in the postseason, a record that is in contrast to his 189-79-39 record in the regular season. He’s lost four of the six series he’s coached in with the Caps, the only wins coming off the New York Rangers.

McPhee does need to share in the blame for not making the tough decision to let Boudreau go, but he deserves credit for the depth he added during the season. The Caps brought in Jason Arnott in a trade deadline deal with the New Jersey Devils. He also dealt for defenseman Scott Hannan --- even if he had a horrible second round, and finished a minus-2--- and his move not to add a veteran goalie didn’t backfire. Michal Neuvirth wasn’t spectacular, but he also wasn’t the reason the Caps got bounced early again.

“They have everything it takes to win,” said Arnott, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this offseason. “No question. It’s a tough thing to do. Playoffs can go one way or another. You have to have luck. You have to have bounces go your way. For me, I think this team has a great mix of guys who can win.”

Much of the blame has to go to the Caps for not sticking to their more defensively responsible system that was supposed to pay dividends in the postseason. It was a great idea, but it could be an indication that the players may have stopped listening to Bruce sometime earlier this series because his skaters reverted back to their free-form ways.

Of course, no matter how many of us in the media or fans talk about, this is a decision that sits with McPhee and owner Ted Leonsis, who is more tolerant of the status quo then most. And if Brooks Laich, also a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, had his way, Boudreau and his assistants, Dean Evason and Bob Woods, would be back. 

“That doesn’t fall on Bruce," Laich told The Washington Post. "We’re the guys that play the game. Bruce, Dean and Bob, I think we have a dream team of coaches. We’re privileged to play for these guys. Any criticism directed toward them is completely unjust. They put the game plan together and it’s up to the players to execute.”

In pro sports, however, you can't get rid of an entire underperforming playoff team. Replacing the coaching staff is the easier route. 


-- A.J. Perez

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com